As a longtime consumer of Bandcamp, Epic Video games’ acquisition of the web music storefront makes me nervous.
The 2 corporations are saying all the correct issues concerning the acquisition: that Bandcamp’s current services and products aren’t going wherever, that it’ll proceed to compensate artists pretty, and that Epic’s backing will speed up improvement on issues that customers already need, similar to higher search and web site design.
But the principle motive I like Bandcamp a lot can also be the one I think Epic cares concerning the least: It’s a spot the place you should purchase and obtain albums as an alternative of renting them by way of streaming companies. As that mannequin turns into more and more out of date for music customers, my concern is that an Epic-owned Bandcamp will sooner or later de-emphasize or abandon it outright.
Why Bandcamp is totally different
Bandcamp isn’t the one place the place you possibly can nonetheless purchase and obtain music. Apple has its iTunes retailer, and Amazon nonetheless sells MP3s. The streaming service Quboz additionally has a obtain retailer, and there are a number of lesser-known locations to buy songs, together with 7Digital and HDTracks.
Even so, Bandcamp is at all times my first cease for a number of causes:
- Its indie artist leanings are likely to gel with my very own musical tastes.
- It makes downloading songs extraordinarily straightforward, with out having to signal into an account or authenticate your laptop. (You too can stream bought songs instantly via Bandcamp’s app.)
- There’s no upcharge for lossless audio codecs similar to FLAC or WAV.
That final level is very vital to me—and exceedingly uncommon amongst music shops. Whereas I can’t at all times inform the distinction between a high-quality MP3 and FLAC file, the concept of paying for an album that’s already degraded from its unique high quality bothers me on precept, having grown up within the age of the CD.
In fact, I additionally respect that Bandcamp is a greater avenue for supporting musicians than streaming companies and even different obtain shops. The corporate solely takes a 15% lower of digital music gross sales—that’s half of Apple’s income break up for iTunes—and it has waived that price on the primary Friday of most months since March 2020. Every album web page additionally feels customized to the artist, and you’ll at all times select to pay greater than asking value for any tune or album. Epic itself cites Bandcamp’s artist-friendliness as one in all its causes for purchasing the corporate, so it at the least understands the worth of treating musicians pretty.
However I’d argue that these parts go hand-in-hand with Bandcamp’s nerdier qualities. One of many primary causes I gave up companies like Spotify seven years in the past is as a result of they made the music really feel disposable. When you will have entry to thousands and thousands of songs on-demand, it’s straightforward to by no means give any of them the thorough listening they deserve. With Bandcamp’s mannequin, shopping for an album looks like an funding in each the music and the artist, and consequently it’s the most effective place to purchase music on the net.
What is going to Epic do?
To be honest, I’ve no concrete motive to assume that Epic will abandon downloadable music, and neither Epic nor Bandcamp have indicated that any basic modifications are coming.
Nonetheless, the obtain mannequin is clearly headed towards obscurity. In 2020, income from downloads fell by 18% throughout all the music business in keeping with the RIAA, and it accounted for simply 6% of whole recorded music income. That development continued within the RIAA’s mid-year report for 2021, which confirmed one other 6% income decline year-over-year.
So it’s honest to surprise if an organization on the dimensions of Epic Video games would possibly ultimately lose curiosity in that mannequin. Bandcamp has already dabbled in subscriptions—albeit on the artist and label stage as an alternative of throughout its whole catalog—and a few people have speculated that Epic would possibly ultimately attempt to launch a music subscription service of its personal.
Even when that doesn’t occur, Epic’s broader objectives have little to do with sustaining quirky impartial storefronts for music nerds. As a substitute, its ambitions are to construct one thing larger—a platform, or a metaverse, by which music is only one aspect. “Bandcamp will play an vital function in Epic’s imaginative and prescient to construct out a creator market ecosystem for content material, know-how, video games, artwork, music and extra,” the corporate’s acquisition assertion says.
Which will very properly find yourself figuring out properly for musicians. I simply hope it doesn’t spoil what makes Bandcamp particular for listeners.